Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis had harsh words today at a press conference outside the Board of Education, indicating that a strike might be on the way. Another possible indication: The Board of Education unveiled a resolution at their monthly meeting for a Chicago Public Schools strike contingency plan.
Lewis was a bit more conciliatory a couple of hours after the press conference in remarks before the Board. She said there would be a contract and that “hopefully” there will be “movement on major issues” in the next few days. Also, Lewis echoed the remarks of CPS officials that thanks to a potential new labor deal the Board of Education will consider a fresh 2012-13 school year budget at their September meeting.
We may know more about whether teachers will stage a strike following a CTU House of Delegates meeting at 4:30 p.m. today. * The union must provide CPS a ten-day notice prior to a walkout. The majority of CPS schools start class September 4.
Lewis said that “very limited progress” has been made on a new contract despite the union and CPS having been in negotiations for months. This contradicts CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll who on Monday said there is “significant progress” on talks.
Meanwhile, CPS is preparing for the possibility of a strike. The board issued a resolution "to provide student and family support in the event the Chicago Teachers Union chooses to strike." The resolution, expected to be approved this afternoon in a closed board session, calls for CPS to provide "access to supervised shelter, meals, and other limited non-instructional services" to students. How cash-strapped CPS plans to implement these supports was not made clear. A CPS spokeswoman indicated that the district would provide further details only in the event of a ten-day strike notice.
Lewis gave a litany of grievances at this morning's press conference including that the interim agreement on a longer school day has not meant a “better day” but instead was rolled out “haphazardly and ridiculously.” For example, part of the deal is that CPS would give jobs to 477 recently laid off teachers. But the union says they are in the dark about this hiring process.
CPS is also allegedly ignoring matters dear to CTU like a reduction in class size and a desire for more social workers. “We have in this city 400,000 children and 370 social workers,” Lewis says. “No one in the city should think this is tolerable.”
Here is video of Lewis and also Jesus Cambucano, of STOP Chicago, who addressed the social worker issue:
Also, discussed at today's board meeting was the 2012-13 fiscal-year budget, slated for approval as well in the closed session. Much to the chagrin of CTU, the budget shifts more money to charter schools. Much to the chagrin of just about everybody – Moody’s bond rating agency, the Chicago Civic Federation, and Access Living disability advocacy group to name three – the budget entirely drains the CPS reserve fund. “There is no more road to kick the can down,” acknowledged Board president David Vitale.
CPS Chief Administrative Officer Tim Cawley made clear that the budget is subject to a new collective bargaining agreement. “We hope we will be back in September for a modified budget,” Cawley said.
* Update 1 (9:50 p.m.): The CTU House of Delegates green-lighted Lewis to issue a ten-day strike notice as the union president sees fit. However, Lewis has neither issued a notice nor set a date for when one might be issued. If anything, today's House of Delegate action is a reinforcement of CTU members strike authorization vote in June.